Are UPF Shirts Worth It?

Rayward Apparel

Although this is a fairly vague question, it’s one we get asked often. If you are considering buying a quality UPF shirt with sun protection and asking if it’s worth it, our answer is always a resounding ‘YES’. Exposure to UV radiation is harmful to your skin and can lead to cancer, you should always do your best to stay protected. Sun protection is especially critical if you spend significant time outdoors, but also important if you're indoors but frequently behind windows.

However, our reasons why depend largely on what you are looking to get out of your UPF shirt. For example, whether you are buying it to stay safe from harmful UV rays, save money, or possibly both.

Health Benefits and Value

Doctor showing health benefits of sun protection

Alternative: Standard shirts

The primary function of a shirt for sun protection is to do exactly that - protect you from the sun. The reason UPF shirts exist at all is because the average cotton shirt has very little protective qualities. While it depends on a variety of factors, a standard shirt may have an average UPF rating of anywhere from 1-5. Although UPF is a little different from SPF, this is like protecting yourself with sunscreen having an SPF of anywhere from 1-5. That is certainly not a sunscreen you would use to protect yourself, therefore a shirt with that value is not something you should wear when outdoors. 

All Rayward Apparel products are UPF 30+. This provides ‘Very Good’ UV protection, allowing only a small fraction of the sun's harmful rays to penetrate the shirt. In summary, if you are often outdoors and want to prioritize your health, a quality shirt for sun protection is certainly worth it. 

Alternative: Sunscreen

What if your alternative is to simply stay shirtless and use sunscreen? From a skin protection standpoint, if you are using an SPF 50 sunscreen, for example, you are receiving the same protection as a UPF 50 shirt (make sure the sunscreen is always ‘broad-spectrum). However, to stay completely protected you need to make sure you re-apply your sunscreen at least every two hours. This time frame is even shorter when swimming or exercising. Sunscreen naturally fades and washes off, so reapplication is critical to maintain the proper level of protection. 

Alternatively, a shirt with sun protection is always going to be broad-spectrum, never needs re-application, and the UPF value won't wash out. The downside is obviously that you need to wear a shirt, especially if it’s an extremely hot beach day. Luckily, while most sun shirts are extremely protective, they can also be lightweight and breathable allowing you to stay comfortable even on the hottest of days.

Cost Benefits and Value

UPF Shirts with Sun Protection Equal Cost Savings

From a cost perspective, a shirt for sun protection might appear to be more expensive up front, but you need to consider the long term benefits. 

Let’s say for example you play tennis, volleyball, or some other outdoor sport every Saturday. Let’s also say you are outside for a total of four hours each time. The recommended amount of sunscreen to cover your entire body is 1 ounce, and even the cheapest sunscreen can cost $1 - $2 per ounce. Assuming you are sweating, you will likely have to apply three total times to maintain a proper level of protection throughout the four hours. This would equate to using around $5 worth of sunscreen every Saturday.

Instead, A UPF protective shirt may cost you a total of $50 up front, but it will keep you covered for years to come. That means after about 10 times wearing a shirt with sun protection, or 2-3 months of only wearing it once a week, it will recoup its cost and then start saving you money on sunscreen moving forward. Keep in mind you will still need a minimal amount of sunscreen to protect any exposed areas. This will not only save you money, but a ton of trips to the convenience store as well.